Julie Kennedy wins award for excellence in teaching

May 15th, 2014
Julie Kennedy

Julie Kennedy (Photo: Linda A. Cicero)

Environmental Earth System Science professor JULIE KENNEDY has been awarded the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award by the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa. She is one of four teachers honored this year and the 12th Stanford professor to win the award.

Kennedy said that while she is delighted to be honored, it is the nomination by a former student that she finds to be most gratifying.

“The deepest honor is to have been nominated, to have a student say that what you did, the way you put yourself out there as a teacher and as a friend really mattered to me, and I want others to know about it,” she said. “That’s what really hits my heart.”

On its website, Phi Beta Kappa states that winners of the award “are those who have taught an especially memorable course, or who have had a special impact on the education, career, life, or who have been found inspiring or particularly admirable by a PBK member.”

ROSS FEEHAN, a Phi Beta Kappa member and a Stanford alumnus (2013, B.S. and M.S. in Earth Systems), said he nominated Kennedy for the teaching award because of her deep impact on him as a teacher, benefactor and mentor. “Julie is irreplaceable,” Feehan said. “The talent, vigor and commitment she brings to each of her roles at Stanford are astounding.”

As part of his senior seminar, Feehan worked with Kennedy to help a nonprofit organization in East Palo Alto build a sustainable business model for a farmer’s market in the city. “Julie became intimately involved in the project to ensure that it was mutually beneficial for the organization and my group,” Feehan said. “She attended our off-campus, 8 a.m. meetings and encouraged the students to recognize the complexity of challenges.”

Kennedy, who is also a co-director of the Haas Center for Public Service and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, said that as a teacher, she doesn’t try to pull her students into her world.

“I try to meet them where they are and then ask ‘How am I going to help you become the best and most effective version of you that you can become?’” she said. “The steps we take toward figuring that out are not a quarter-long adventure, it’s a years-long adventure together.”

 — BY KER THAN,  associate director of communications for the School of Earth Sciences